Across the Globe to Break Barriers

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Perry Chan, 24, from Hong Kong, graduated in BSc Psychology and MSc Performance Psychology in the UK and is currently a clinical psychologist trainee at SOLS 24/7 Malaysia. His passion lies in providing psychotherapy in order to reduce psychological distress and enhance psychological well-being within communities.

He aspires to become a clinical psychologist because he truly believes that every individual deserves a happy and fulfilling life. Perry is always ready to put a smile on someone else’s face.

After completing my masters program, I knew that I was seeking to do something back for society. Considering that, I, myself, had been incredibly blessed with a great education I felt that I needed to play my part and give back. I’ve always been interested in doing volunteer work and now was my chance! I chose to truly emerge myself into a reality different from my own, one that a lot of us try to deny, and one that most people don’t experience.

I decided to join an NGO named Bibliobus located in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This NGO provides communities with educational classes, life skill classes and libraries in order to improve their future opportunities. The part I played within this organisation was to plan the activities for the students.

This area was very poor, in fact, 45% of the entire population of Bolivia lives under the poverty line. Such devastation statistics. Experiencing poverty, raw and vicious, face-to-face is so different from seeing it on television. I truly came to understand the difficulties their community faces on a day-to-day basis through spending time with these students and as the bonds grew stronger, the more I felt compelled to help the students reach their full potential.

Having been exposed to extreme poverty and all it’s effects on a community and having focused on psychology, I knew that a portion of these underserved communities were suffering from mental illnesses without being able to obtain proper guidance and support. I recognised that this is not only an issue in Bolivia or South America – this is a problem many underserved communities face all across the globe. This problem needs to be addressed and handled appropriately.

I acknowledged that I should pursue something in the world of helping one another, that was also within my field of expertise. I wanted to find something in the NGO sector that helps underserved communities through psychological assistance; it was what I studied for, after all.

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This is how I stumbled upon the SHIELD program, in Malaysia. SHIELD stands for Support, Health, Insight, Empower, Learn and Develop.

Being a citizen of the world, I didn’t mind travelling halfway back across the world to Asia. I saw it more as an adventure, and an adventure it remains till this day! I know in my heart that what I’m doing now is my passion, and this can only grow.

I started with researching psychological problems in Malaysia and how they are attended to. I came to understand that there was a high predictor of suicide and self harm, which had increased by 60% within the past 45 years! These statistics provided by the Ministery of Health (Malaysia’s Health Report, 2005) motivated me to become part of SHIELD.

Having had the experience of poverty in Bolivia has made me passionate to provide mental health care to underserved communities.

Coming to learn about the issue of lack of psychological help access, the taboo of needing external psychological help and this embarrassment within the Malaysian society intrigued me and I felt even more compelled to help. Within underserved communities, I came to understand that taboo and embarrassment play a large role, in addition to the lack of funds that individuals are not likely to seek psychological help.

Most people within these underserved communities are not able to afford private clinics. The thing that makes the SHIELD program so special is that it recognises this issue and provides underserved communities within Malaysia with affordable psychological services.

Through SHIELD, I’ve had the opportunity to visit different schools and communities to give workshops on a variety of topics related to psychology, including: stress management, motivation, parenting etc… I’m able to assist clients are able to come for psychological assessment and get them in touch with clinical psychologists.

Furthermore, SHIELD focuses on assessment of consultations, intervention and therapy. I wish to do this myself in the future, but I’m still a trainee for now, so it’s great exposure for me for the future.

But what attracts me most about SHIELD is that it aims to create awareness of psychological issues and remove the stigma that is still so very present in Malaysia regarding mental illness. I love being part of this, because this program doesn’t only focus on changing the lives and breaking barriers within individuals, but within communities.

Alfred Adler, who pioneered community psychology, once said “Our health resides in our community life and connections”. After being a part of SHIELD, I have learnt the importance to empower and educate the communities with my knowledge and skills about psychology with the guidance of Ms. Ellisha Othman.

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To this day, I’m working in the SOLS 24/7 Malaysia SHIELD office, where I get to make a difference in the lives of others and help break these barriers.

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